Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti defy the science of sound with layers of vocals, drums, percussion, guitar, bass, baritone, synths and stylophone (mini-synthesizer) between the two of them. Additional instrumental work comes from Mark Frederick with violin and cello on “The Cost of You,” adding a touch of softness to a band defined by strength. Producer and engineer Sean Slade’s vintage organs also offer more texture to the already dense songs.
“Cannonball” serves as a perfect opener, “crashing through all our defenses” with a demanding bass drum and fierce guitar. Krahmer’s voice shows its versatility; she soars with “Brave and Kind,” but also gets gritty for “Killer.” “Lionheart” leans toward the blues, but bursts into a typical dance-inducing Sirsy rocker. And “Lot of Love” is the CD’s most sweet, poppy and bubbling track, as the song lyrics plead, “I’m not at all well to do/ I don’t have much to offer you/ Except this little beating heart that’s bursting for you/ And I’ve got, I’ve got a lot of love/ To give you/ I hope you’ve got the time to stick around.”
It’s difficult to capture the energy and charisma that the Sirsy pair offers live, yet this record does about as much justice as it can without having Krahmer and Libutti smiling back at you while you listen. Experience Sirsy live when they play the Lost Horizon, 5863 Thompson Road, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., along with openers The Blind Spots and Good Ghost. Tickets are $10 for the show, which also features a Halloween costume contest; winners get $50 in Sirsy merchandise and free tickets to an upcoming show at Lost Horizon or the Westcott Theater. For more information, visit the losthorizon.com or sirsy.com.
Pale Green Stars. The Honky Tonk Years (independent). “Well, it’s Sunday mornin’ with church bells ringin’/ My throat hurts from smokin’/ My throat hurts from singin’/ All about that woman and how she won’t take me back,” Jeff Jones growls over grinding guitars (performed by Jones’ other half, Jeff Beck) and shuffling drums on “Heard it From a Friend.” Following that, “Lesson 27” drips with dirty slide work and a fair explanation (“Most people call me white trash/ I’m just a different kind of pretty”), before the CD slips into the most devilish “Amazing Grace” you’ve ever heard. Pale Green Stars might be a Syracuse band, but their latest album sounds like a back-country, guns, porch and pickup kind of record.
Jones, a master of sincerity, dives into his lyrics as he develops a character through the tales of his tunes. The songs burst open with the honky-tonk romp, “Long Hard Road,” complete with smart lyrics that continue through the record. Meanwhile, there’s a ripping band behind him: Guitarist Shawn Sullivan, bassist Steve Winston and Jeff Tripoli on drums, who keep the pace driving and the hits coming hard. A roster of guest musicians also help the disc hit greater heights, including Kim Monroe on “Steal Back That Heart” and Timothy J. Beck, Alvah Canfield, Pete Stojanovski, Ashley Cox, Melody Cali, Liz Canino, Dave Solazzo, George Newton and Bill Horrace on other tracks.
The record could use a turn-up on the drum volume to make the rock bigger, but aside from that it’s nearly spotless. Tracks vary between hopping (“Bad Bad News”) and sinister (“Cold Vicious Man”) to showcase everyone’s versatility, although Jones takes an obvious driver’s seat as his two names (Jones and Beck) wind up all over the record, audibly and visually. His conceptual creativity, combined with his delivery, both speak well for Syracuse music, as The Honky Tonk Years emerges as one of the standouts of the scene in 2013.
To catch an electric live performance of Pale Green Stars (which now features Brian Coyne on bass and no Sullivan), there’s the Zombie Ball, presented by WKRL-FM (100.9 K-Rock) on Saturday, Oct. 26, 8:30 p.m., at the Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St. Also on the bill:
Hobo Graffiti, Bloodandstationwagons and Drylung Whiskey Binge. Admission is $10; call 475-7980 for details. The Stars also host a Halloween party at Al’s Wine and Whiskey Lounge, 321 S. Clinton St., on Thursday, Oct. 31, 9 p.m. For more information, visit palegreenstarsband. com.